The Cochin Port Authority intends to move all future port-related activities to a new area and is considering reviving its once-stalled outer port project.
The outer harbor project was started seven to eight years ago with the support of the Indian Navy and was shelved after a backslide.
“We are taking a different approach now and are asking for the support of the Kerala government as the port needs their support to survive,” said Vikas Narwal, vice chairman of the Port of Cochin.
“We are working on the idea of moving the majority of port operations to the outer harbor and are looking at ways to monetize Willingdon Island’s land pool for commercial, hospitality and tourism projects. We are also looking to partner with the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and Cochin Shipyard Ltd as the project will also create a large land pool. Previously, the state government was not involved in the project and we must consider them for mutual benefit,” he said.
Industries operating in the shipping sector can invest in port-related companies and set up entities. “We are also looking at private investment to create the outer harbor in line with the development of Cochin International Airport,” Narwal said.
According to him, the draft restrictions in the port channel are hampering development activities and posing a major challenge to increase the depth. The average depth in ports around the world has been increased to over 20 meters to accommodate larger ships. However, there will be no such draft restrictions in the outer harbor project.
The outer harbor project cost is estimated at 12,000 to 15,000 crore. The port expects to raise ₹5,000 crore through the monetization of land on Willingdon Island, taking into account the potential for tourism activities.
Of the 35.255 million tons of traffic achieved in FY23, liquid cargo such as crude oil, petroleum products and LNG accounted for most of it, he said. However, container traffic faces a major challenge recently, mainly due to the sharing of hinterland freight between ports and the concentration of other neighboring ports on container operations.
The outer harbor project some 2,600 acres west of Puthuvypeen and 650 acres off Fort Kochi was designed following studies by the Central Water and Power Research Station in Pune and the IIT Madras. The location is ideal for an export-oriented oil refinery with an annual production of 20 million tons or for a liquid trading hub.
The port of Cochin’s geographic location close to the international shipping route also bodes well for the project to become commercially viable, as do the same factors that spoke in favor of establishing the ICTT at Vallarpadam.